Peacenik is widely used as a slur in Israel. Here four activists explain their demise and why they hold on

It’s a sad-looking protest. A few dozen members of Israel’s beleaguered agreement push mill around on a road in east Jerusalem, impounding clues in Arabic, English and Hebrew declaring:” Stop the occupation .” Older, well-dressed academic leftwingers with gray-headed whisker and round spectacles mingle with a scruffier younger crowd.

One man with a cigarette hanging in his opening hoops a cowbell. A few Israeli police look on with bored express. Traffic meanders by as ordinary. Everyone seems to know each other. Another person sitting on the side of the road gesticulates to a columnist.” Do I have shit on my psyche ?” he asks, gazing up for chicks on power lines overhead.

This is part of what remains of the Israeli peace camp, crippled by a political organisation that has careened wildly to the right. “Leftist” and “peacenik” are widely used as dismissive slurs against an ever-embattled section of society who are increasingly on the fringe and slammed as traitors.

In an upcoming election, the issue of the Palestinians- once the central focus of Israeli politics- is often circumvented. A December poll ascertained while more than half of Jewish Israelis want peace negotiations, almost 75% believed they would fail. The group that guided the results of the investigation, the Israel Democracy Institute, said the peace issue has ” disappeared almost entirely from the Israeli public discourse “.

Four members of Israel’s beleaguered leftwing explain how this happened and why the issue is viewing on 😛 TAGEND

The protester

Pepe
Pepe Goldman:’ We exclusively live once. I could not forgive myself if I let this happen .’ Photograph: Quique Kierszenbaum/ The Guardian

One demonstrator at the revival, Pepe Goldman, an Argentinian Jew who emigrated to Israel in 1976, has asserted ever since.” There is a process of burning out ,” he says on the sidelines.” Unfortunately, we are a small minority. Israelis are very, extremely …” he says, before restarting the sentence:” I would say they don’t give a fuck about what is going on .”

After years of neglected assaults, many Israelis are asking themselves whether armistice , not to mention a Palestinian state, is necessary when Gaza is entirely blocked off, the West Bank occupation is tightly oversaw, and the economy is booming.

The 67 -year-old no longer declarations to convince his fellow citizens. He comes for very limited but concrete grounds- as an Israeli, with the extra rights under the law that entails, he was able to stand as a human shield for Palestinians who are facing forced evictions or onrushes from settlers.

Despite lashes by pioneers and decreasing quantities, he sustains his activism every Friday.” We simply live once. I could not forgive myself if I tell all this happen .”

The repentant soldier

Yehuda
Yehuda Shaul:’ Remember McCarthy? He’s alive and kicking and here in Israel .’ Photograph: Quique Kierszenbaum/ The Guardian

Yehuda Shaul is 37, but his whitened beard, broad-spectrum shoulders and weatherbeaten face paint an image of a much older man. On numerous dates, the Israeli ex-combat soldier is at the figurehead of a bus, touring the West Bank to show Israelis and foreign visitors what the occupation looks like. The organisation he founded, Breaking the Silence, is made up of veterans who want to expose the reality of Israel’s grip over Palestinian life.

Shaul’s knowledge is encyclopaedic. He appears to know the date of every colonization- and there are more than 140 with nearly 600,000 tenants- was established and how each one feigns the Palestinians living around it.

When Breaking the Silence firstly started after the violent second intifada, Shaul says his group was ” mainstream”- critical singers, but one that come back here the respected institution of the armed forces.” We had deserved the right to speak out .”

But after Benjamin Netanyahu made deals with hard-line religious patriots in 2015 to form the most rightwing coalition government in the country’s history, pro-settler violences flourished in power.

That is when the attacks on Breaking the Silence ramped up. Shaul reels off some from recollection: an arson attempt on their powers; parties working undercover to infiltrate the organisation; a rule that was dubbed the” Breaking the Silence” greenback to ban them from speaking in schools; and a bloody nose last summertime when a settler perforated him during a tour. Netanyahu even cancelled a convene with the German foreign minister after he told you he would speak to the former troops.

One specially bitter escapade followed after phone numbers of his colleague’s family members were posted online by a troll. Someone called her grandparents at 3am pretending to be a hospital worker to say she had died in a automobile clang. Shaul was outraged but unsurprised.” When the defence minister announces you a sleuth, and the prime minister says you swept a red wrinkle, and the tourism official says you’re a traitor. People answer the call ,” he says.” Remember McCarthy? He’s alive and kicking and here in Israel .”

The columnist

Amira
Amira Hass in 1999 … a new generation has come’ to regard this reality as normal’. Photograph: Don Mcphee/ The Guardian

Amira Hass liquors a small whiskey in a saloon in Ramallah to fend off a cold. Behind her the famed 1936″ Visit Palestine” poster hangs on the wall. Since 1993, she has lived in the territories, first in Gaza and now in the West Bank. As an Israeli writer, she says you should reside in the place you be talking about. But she cannot think of a single other Jewish Israeli journalist who lives here.

Ending 51 -years of Israeli military ruler is not an issue in this election, she says, because a new generation “re coming”” to regard this reality as normal “.

There used to be an ” malaise” in civilization,” because there was still an understanding that there was a contradiction between our self-image as instructed, progressive, radical, democratic, and the occupying forces. You had had a generation who knew what life was like before[ the occupation began in] 1967.”

As the settler crusade has succeeded in becoming a significant sector of society, the idea of annexing the huge swaths of ground they have taken is rapidly becoming a mainstream idea, she says.” They are high middle class, they are savvy, they are in the military, they find themselves in hi-tech .”

There is no longer pro- or anti-peace camps in Israel, Hass includes, precisely” the win camp “.

The politician

Dr
Dr Yosef’ Yossi’ Beilin:’ Sometimes it[ serenity] is the elephant in the area[ but] this is the real story of Israel .’ Photograph: Quique Kierszenbaum/ The Guardian

Yossi Beilin, the only one of the four to have harboured a position in authority, is also the most optimistic. Much of his three decades of political life was in the pro two-state Labour party but also in Meretz, which is firmly anti-occupation. Both parties are now in decline. In the 1990 s, he was part of secret talks in Norway that led to the Oslo accords, a framework to make a peace deal that ultimately stalled.

” There is a general feeling that there is nothing to do ,” he says.

Few doves like him remain in the Israeli parliament. The former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, one of the country’s most prominent peace counsels, left politics this month after polls indicated her tiny party would not make it into parliament again. In her depart addres, Livni said conciliation had become a ” dirty word “.

Beilin , now 70, says he promised to leave politics at 60 to allow a younger audience to raise new ideas. But would he have retired if his pro-peace ideology had been more successful?” It’s a good question. Maybe not .”

Still, he repudiates conciliation is off the agenda. It is a primary part of the Israeli psyche, he indicates.” Sometimes it is the elephant in the chamber( but) this is the real story of Israel .”

Asked to explain his steadfast confidence, he replies:” Because we need it badly .”

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